valentine’s day for diehards.

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” 
– William ShakespeareRomeo and Juliet

What better place to spend Valentine’s Day than Verona, Italy. Home to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is the unofficial Valentine’s Day headquarters – and it plays the part well.

Verona is a quaint village in north central Italy, where a clear and winding river frames the picturesque city. While the architecture was quiet similar to Rome, the air felt cleaner and spaces more wide open just minutes after departing the train. Taking a deep breath of cool air and seeing the snow capped mountains in the distance, I was already in love.

And any other day this may have been what Verona offered to those it wants to entice, but on February 14th, the stakes are raised.

Every light post post dons (tasteful) red hearts, and every piazza fills with stands upon stands of artisan chocolate for sale. There are flowers everywhere, and there are people to enjoy it all. Couples poured through the streets, window shopping hand-in-hand, all so very in love.

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To many, this would be a 24-hour nightmare or form of freakish torture, but I couldn’t help but smile and be happy. I was lucky to be in Verona on this day too, even without my true Valentine in tow.

It was a warm and sunny day, so we dropped of our bags and coats before grabbing lunch and beginning our walking tour.

None of us could understand a word our tour guide was saying and no one really wanted to stand too close, with his giant American flag on a pole to keep the group together. Just when I thought I was starting to blend in.

Even without the historical information, I loved seeing the largest outdoor amphitheater in Italy (still used today!). As well as the main squares of Verona, and that beautiful river.

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Of course, the most fun thing to see was Juliet’s balcony, and a few other notable stops in her small courtyard. While the balcony is most famous, there is also a gate of locks where soulmates lock away their love and throw away the key. Next to it stands a statue of Juliet with a shiny golden breast. Supposedly, if you place your hand on it, you are guaranteed new love. I passed on the groping and moved to Juliet’s wall, where people from all over graffiti messages to Juliet in hopes of her help to find romance.

Of course, if you’ve seen Letters to Juliet or ever been on Pinterest, you already know all of this.

After the tour we had a few hours to rest in our hotel, where Emily and I so enjoyed our homey room, balcony, and color TV! We watched some Olympic speed skating, my first Sochi viewing so far, and got ready for dinner.

Not needing to plan is one thing I love about being on a school trip, including dinner arrangements. Our three course meal, for 48 American students, on Valentine’s Night, was covered. Score.

After yummy bread, we had homemade gnocchi, followed by beef stew with grits and polenta, topped off with a dessert I can best describe as French toast pound cake, or edible gold. The dinner in itself was absolutely incredible.

Waddling home from the restaurant, we browsed and sampled at the chocolate market again before heading back to slip beneath the covers of our cozy beds. After FaceTiming overseas Valentines and setting alarms for an early morning, that would come too quickly, we fell fast asleep – bodies tired and bellies full from a long day.

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In just a few hours, we would say goodbye to a hidden gem of Italy and the lush countryside in favor of the Adriatic Sea and it’s endless blue-green.

*more photos to follow

Ciao, for now.

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